Truck accidents are often horrific scenes of twisted metal and unrecognizable vehicles. The injuries sustained to the occupants of those vehicles can be equally devastating and life-altering.
If you were injured in a truck accident in Florida, our experienced Stuart truck accident lawyers can determine if you have a case to pursue compensation for your injuries.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers in Stuart offer free case reviews, and we earn a fee only if we are successful in making a recovery of compensation on your behalf.
Causes of Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a study from 2001 to 2003 in order to determine the causes of truck accidents in the United States. In 2007 they released a report on the findings entitled “The Large Truck Causation Study.” The study examined 967 crashes involving 1,127 large trucks, resulting in 352 fatalities and many other injuries. Analysis of the results found some consistent problems that persist to this day.
- Drug Use: Drug use was the most common contributing factor. Prescription drugs or illicit drugs were found to be a cause in 26% of the crashes studied. Over-the-counter medications contributed to 18 percent of the crashes.
- Driver Fatigue: Often assumed to be the largest cause of crashes, driver fatigue was present in 13 percent of the accidents studied. Even though it is not as common as expected, driver fatigue is still the cause of many truck accidents. Distracted driving was also a common cause.
- Speeding: In 23 percent of accidents, speeding was the cause. The force of impact increases with each mile of increased speed, causing more severe crashes that often result in death.
Types of Truck Accidents
There are several types of motor vehicle accidents, some of which are inherently more serious than others due to their tendency to produce catastrophic injuries.
Common types of truck accidents include:
- Head-on collisions are when the front of two vehicles collide. Head-on truck accidents are one of the most dangerous crashes to be involved in.
- T-Bone collisions, also known as side-impact collisions, are when the front of one vehicle strikes the side of another. This is a serious type of accident, as the side panels of a vehicle provide little protection, and both windows and panels can be broken inward and strike occupants.
- Rollover accidents also tend to produce serious injuries as the vehicle and occupants can be turned upside-down, with the roof buckling and occupants potentially being pinned between the road and the vehicle crushing downwards.
- Rear-end collisions, while typically not as serious as head-on or T-bone collisions, can result in the vehicle struck being sent forward into traffic or other hazards.
- Sideswipe accidents occur when the side of a vehicle strikes another, typically when merging lanes.
Why Truck Accidents Are More Serious Than Car Accidents
The seriousness of a vehicular accident is determined by several factors, such as:
- The size and weight of the vehicles involved;
- The type of accident, the health and condition of the individuals, vehicles, and any other property involved;
- Utilization of safety features like seatbelts and airbags; and
- Speed of the vehicles.
The increased size and weight of trucks make accidents involving them inherently more dangerous, as the weight of the vehicle adds to the force of the impact. Because trucks can be dozens of times as heavy as cars, this results in the smaller vehicle absorbing more of the impact as the truck crashes through it. Additionally, the heavier vehicles require more time and greater room to stop, making these accidents both more dangerous and more likely.
Trucking Regulations Relevant to Accidents
At the federal level, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the government agency responsible for reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities that involve large trucks by creating and enforcing regulations.
On the state level, the Florida Highway Patrol Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (OCVE) enforces Florida trucking regulations.
The rules relevant to trucking in Florida include regulations regarding:
- Driver Qualifications: All commercial truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license;
- Maintenance: Trucks must be inspected by a qualified inspector every year;
- Hours of Service Regulations: Florida limits drivers to not more than 12 hours of driving after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. They may not drive after the 16th consecutive hour following 10 consecutive hours off-duty, and not drive after 70 hours on duty in any seven consecutive day period or 80 hours on any eight-day period;
- Weight: 80,000 pounds is the maximum weight allowable on Florida highways;
- Width: Trucks must be 102 inches across or less, excluding mirrors and safety devices. The width allowed on a particular road, like a small side street, may be less;
- Height: Trucks must typically be 13 feet, 6 inches or less, with an exception for automobile transporters, which are allowed to be up to 14 feet;
- Overhang: Typically, a three-foot overhang is allowed; and
- Length: Length is limited to 75 feet in Florida.
Potential Truck Accident Compensation
Like other negligence cases, truck accidents can involve economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
- Economic damages are tangible financial losses suffered due to the accident. This can include bills to repair or replace property like a vehicle, laptop in the car during the accident, or other current or future bills for medical treatment, rehabilitation, or lost wages from time missed at work;
- Non-economic damages are intangible. This can include the physical pain and psychological trauma experienced in the accident, loss of enjoyment from a change in lifestyle forced by the accident, or the emotional effect of being disfigured in the accident; and
- Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are awarded for particularly egregious behavior to punish the wrongful actor and provide an example to deter similar actions.
In the tragic event of a death stemming from negligence that resulted in a truck crash, family members will be able to pursue a wrongful death case. In that case, speaking with a Stuart wrongful death attorney can help to navigate this complicated and challenging situation.
Some of the most common causes of truck accidents related to someone’s negligence are:
- Driver fatigue
- Inexperienced driver
- Reckless driver
- Unbalanced cargo
- Inadequate vehicle maintenance
- Defective truck components
In order to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), drivers must earn and maintain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) from the State of Florida. The certification process teaches truck drivers the safe practices of driving these large trucks (weighing up to 80,000 lbs), including:
- Awareness of large blind spots on either side of the truck as well as immediately in front
- Mandatory rest periods after driving for a certain amount of time
- Maintenance of equipment and components (brakes, tires, etc.)
Regardless of this training, accreditation, and legally-enforced guidelines, negligent and careless driving accounts for the majority of all truck-related accidents.
Responsible Parties in a Tractor-Trailer Accident
Although a truck driver can be the person responsible for the accident, there are several other potentially liable parties, such as:
- Truck driver’s employer
- Owner of the truck
- Owner of the cargo or cargo container
After a truck accident in which you were injured, the claim process can be complex and overwhelming, partly because of the number of potentially at-fault parties. These claims are further complicated by the swiftness with which the trucking company’s insurance carrier will act to protect the trucking company. The insurance company may try to get you to accept a settlement quickly, or they may work aggressively to put the blame on you.
Our tractor-trailer accident attorneys in Stuart have decades of experience handling these types of cases, and they do not back down to powerful insurance companies. We put all of our skills and resources to work in building a strong case for you to get the compensation you need and deserve.
Contacting a Stuart Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a tractor-trailer accident in or around Martin County, or if a loved one was killed in one of the types of wrecks, call a Stuart truck accident lawyer to learn about your legal options. We have sought compensation for some of the worst accidents on the road, including 18-wheeler accident lawsuits, and our experienced attorneys will dedicate the time and attention necessary to fight for the compensation you deserve.